Excellent piece on ESPN.com by Patrick Hruby about the culture of hockey fighting and the fans who are absolutely obsessed with it.
Recent Islanders acquisition Joel "The Wrecker" Rechlicz makes a cameo, although he's mentioned as having been pounded by Jon "Nasty" Mirasty of the Syracuse Crunch, so maybe he's not thrilled that his name is in there.
The fight fans featured in the story are die-hard followers of "the code" and spend hours watching hockey fights and the discussing them on message boards and websites. The older ones among them cut their teeth on videotaping fights and trading tapes, some even tapping into satellite signals to get them. Crazy.
When I was in high school, my younger brother and his friend taped fights but weren't nearly as obsessed - it was more of an annoyance as they seemed more interested in calling each other to let them know a fight was going on in the Devils game than watching an Islanders or Rangers game for, you know, the HOCKEY.
Of course, the hockey fight fans hate Gary Bettman and what the NHL has become, and so minor leagues like Mirasty are their folk heroes. I have to admit it's hard to believe the last bench-clearing brawl in the NHL was in 1987, and that having once argued that there's no place for fighting in an elite-level league like the NHL (you fight in any other sport and you're tossed from the game and likely suspended), I liked the old NHL better, where fighters had a role.
That said, I cringed at the description in Hruby's story about a 15-year-old, son of a cop, who "knocked out" three kids at a game in a tournament in Canada. Worse yet, the kid said "it was fun," and his dad couldn't have been prouder of how his son has learned to hit other kids so hard with a punch. In a hockey game.
To me, that's not hockey, at least at that level. You get to the pros, maybe it's a different story.
But they have to start somewhere.